Rats have beaten us

In a competition that

We’ve now given up on.

And what might that be?

Why would we compete with rats?

For food? for water?

Spreading diseases?

Performing on a treadmill

As it spins around?’


No, none of the above.

It’s empathy. Compassion.

They’re in the lead now,

For they’ll always help

Another rat in distress.

Even when something

Else, like chocolate –

A rat’s favorite treat –

Is offered instead.


A rat spurns chocolate

To help another rat escape –

To worry away

At a little door,

And open it from outside,

Until the trapped rat,

Its fellow creature,

Is liberated.


Then, when it’s been freed,

The pair seem to dance.

The rat that’s released

Will then follow the other

One round for hours,

And it licks its liberator

To show appreciation.


When a rat baby

Cries, other infant

Rats, the babies in the nest,

Will cry out in sympathy.

Rats give their children

Toys to play with, bits of stick.


All these reactions

Show the rat has a


Mandate to help rats.

It’s rat altruism.


The activist, Charlie Veitch

Of the Love Police,

Set up a series

Of human experiments

In the financial

District of London.


Appearing to have a knife,

Sticking in his chest

He spread-eagled himself

In Threadneedle street,

Looking as if he was dead.

Blood was oozing out.

A friend filmed it all.


Passers-by ignored Charlie –

Going on their way

To their offices.

They left him just where he was,

Preferring their rewards –

Their forms of chocolate –

To helping someone.

For tasty lumps of money trump

Saving someone’s life.


Could this perhaps prove

That in a profit-driven

Economy like ours

Compassion’s not on tap

Since it ‘slows things down’?


Yet human rat-racers

Choose to slander rats.

Rats leave sinking ships” they say

As if common sense was a crime.


Social cohesion

In cockroaches is tight too:

They don’t borrow money

To fight wars, only to be crushed

By debt mountains.


But rats and cockroaches

Test our comfort zone.

It’s best that we despise them

To know who we are.

Though of course we’re them…


In the year 2000,

Chinese scientists

Unearthed a fossil

125 million years old.


They gave it a name,

Eomaia Scansoria’

Or Dawn Mother.


This tiny tree-rat

Was a placental rodent –

A cunning, and curious

Tree-hugging shrew

Which, when it was free

Of dinosaur predators,

Turned into us.


We were rats once.

Now we’re ex-rats –

Self-hating ex-rats.


Though the rat,

Rattus Rattus,

Unchanged by being urbanised

But not yet socially neutered

Might see humans’ disgust

As laughable –

And rats can laugh.


When their vocalizations are slowed down

And they’re tickled,

You hear sounds of enjoyment.

You’re hearing laughter.


Rats will then follow the hand that’s tickling them

And they’ll nudge it until it tickles them again.


Rats, in other words,

Can get us to make them laugh.



Heathcote Williams



















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4 Responses to Rats

    1. Brilliant and funny. Thank you.
      I watched a man as he was hit by a car and thrown into the air one early morning. I had just got off a night bus and people were hurrying to work near Victoria. No one stopped to help. I felt as though I were in slow motion as I walked toward him and called an ambulance. I have never considered being rat like before and associated rattus with vampires after watching the film Nosferatu.
      Now I’m going to try and like them more.

      Comment by julie on 28 April, 2012 at 3:19 pm
    2. Great comparison with Humans and Rats looking deep into Human society the elitist and capitalist have change our humanitarian perception towards a selfish negative constant as an acceptable norm and its only getting worse. We should look at our inhumane system our own psyche of humanity and take great note of what i term Ratnity ! So when we use the term “Rat race” we are so hypercritical if only the rats can defend themselves and use the term “Human race” as the destroyer and Garbage maker of civilization and worlds.

      Comment by Brent Schuster on 4 May, 2012 at 12:20 am
    3. As ever, Heathcote cuts deep into the core of truthfulness. Thank you.

      Comment by David Dudley on 13 May, 2016 at 6:58 am
    4. Heartfelt Heathcote…And a wonderful art work by Elena. They are bright and beautiful beings indeed, and so deserve a paradigm and perception shift, after what they have suffered (and still suffer so horrifically) at our hands. It’s inspiRATional that H celebRATed them while he was still with us. Bless that good man, and all his brothers and sisters.

      Comment by Heidi Stephenson on 4 August, 2020 at 4:36 pm

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